Obituary, from the Latin word “obit” meaning death and “arius” for –ary, is defined on dictionary.com as “a notice of the death of a dead person, often with a biographical sketch, as in a newspaper”. The origin of the word itself is obvious, “obit”. When asked of what and where obituary is seen, one will say that it is seen on a newspaper. Newspaper publishers earn money from having an obituary section. The said section used to have a minimum of two pages; however, at present, the obituary section can be as short as half a page only. Newspapers earn from obituary section through the payments they get from newspaper readers who want to publicize the death of a person whom they know.
Publishing the dead person’s name started from the American on the 16th century, however, it took them three hundred more years for them to learn the more detailed kind of obituary printing from the British. Obituary, back then, was usually for public servants, soldiers, celebrities, adventurers and other prominent people, because the newspaper company goes for their readers’ interests.
In the Philippines, the obituary section is not given that much attention anymore. Obituaries are mostly seen printed on the broad sheet type of newspapers and rarely on tabloid newspapers. The newspaper publisher has some requirements for one to be able o have the name of the dead person to be printed. For Manila Bulletin, they ask for the death certificate of the dead person and also an identification card of both the dead person and the person who is asking for the name to be printed. After that, the newspaper company needs to be paid by the measurement of the name. For instance, you want it to be half the page, they will measure it by inches, and there is a certain amount per inch. According to Rolando Bolisay, who had the name of his uncle printed on the obituary section back then, the newspaper company ask for the desired measurement. For them, they had their uncle’s name printed on a half page broad sheet. He also added that it was per inch measurement, and that it was really expensive.
Obituary writing also has a certain frame work. One cannot just write an essay or an article about someone who just died. Most obituary writers focus on the reason for the death of the person. Also, they explain the value of life through their article. In our country, Obituary writing is not much of a big deal, since the obituary section only needs to have the frame and the name of the dead inside, almost similar to a tomb stone. In addition, some get to have a poetry added for the dead person. Obituary used to be for the newspaper only. Nowadays, some online obituaries can already be searched. Nonetheless, online obituaries are only prominent in America.
Obituary is basically a record or reference. But, how can one be an obituary writer? Obituaryguide.com gives us some tips on how to make an obituary. First, of course, look for the newspaper you are writing for, to know the kind of news writing the newspaper does. You need to understand how their frame work goes, etc. Second, you need to be aware of identity theft. One can just give you a random person’s name and reason of death without you knowing that the person you are writing for is not the even dead at all. Third, balance the essence of life with death. Everyone knows you are writing for the dead, but why not add some ideas regarding the value of life. This can make your reader understand life in relation to the dead person. Fourth, make your mind up on how many relatives you are going to put in your article. In addition, be careful with choosing and forgetting to list down other relatives. Fifth, “show, rather than tell”. This means, cite examples and situations instead of just saying “the person is generous to the poor” say “the person once gave his money to a charity called…” to show accuracy in your writing. Sixth, think of three words to put in the end of your article. These three words should be related to the dead person and his events in life. Seventh, think about making several versions of the obituary. This will give you a variety of options, in case you would want to have a better or maybe shorter version. Eighth, add the rest of the dead person’s profile after. If you are going for a longer obituary, then include it anyway. Ninth, revise and edit. This is a must for all kinds of article, not just obituary. This is in cases where you forget to put in the name, or other important highlights of the person. Last but not the least, proofread. Try checking if there are grammatical errors wrong information, etc.
As what was said before, obituary writing is not given that much importance in the Philippines. As the new phase of technology comes, print media die, and if print media die, obituary will also be gone. And yes, you earn money in writing obituary, since you will need to have money for the printing, and service charge, for the writing of the obituary.